As you would expect the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is beautiful, lined with sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and lush rain forest.


costa rica caribbean coast
howler monkey


Including Cahuita National Park, Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge and Puerto Viejo

As you would expect the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is stunning.  The beautiful coast is lined with sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and lush rain forest.  Experience a fusion of cultures here with strong Jamaican influences.

With the famous Tortuguero National Park to the north, there is also plenty to see and do in the southern reaches of this region, the hub of Costa Rica’s Afro-Caribbean community with some Italian and German influences thrown into the mix.  It all seems to happen at a much more relaxed pace on this coastline.


You can’t visit the Caribbean coast and not spend a night or two at the beach here.  There are a number of popular beaches, most of them have a wonderful backdrop of jungle and rainforest, filled with wildlife and spectacular birds.

There is nothing more relaxing than lying on the beach, listening to the sounds of the surf, shaded from the hot sun by an umbrella or a palm tree.  As there plenty of beaches to choose from, you won’t be bored.  There are beaches more suited to surfing, and some to swimming.  There are also beaches that offer water sports and snorkelling.  For more information on the various beaches please visit our page on beaches.

RacoonCahuita National Park

The main road from San José will take you via Puerto Limón, a bustling port city and drop-off point for cruise ships, but there’s not much to do here.  Head further south and you will come to Cahuita, which has a distinctly laid-back, Afro-Caribbean feel.  The town borders the small, but perfect Cahuita National Park.  The white sandy beaches and coral reef of this area are teeming with wildlife.

Crab eating racoon are common, attracted by the fiddler and red land crabs.  Also seen are white nosed coati and of course the much loved capuchin and howler monkeys.  You will hear the howlers before you see them as they announce their presence in the usual way – they aren’t called howlers for nothing.

There are some fantastic hiking trails here, pristine beaches with safe spots marked for swimming as well as the coral reef which lends itself to some of the best snorkelling in the area (but to preserve the reef, you will need to hire a guide to snorkel).

Puerto Viejo (de Talamanca)

Once only famous amongst the surfing community, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (not to be confused with Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí) has evolved and is now seeing more diverse tourism.  It still has that lovely laid back West Indian vibe mixed with local Costa Rican culture.  The beaches in the vicinity are stunning too, Playa Negra has the safest swimming while Playa Chiquita and Playa Uva have the most picture postcard perfect scenery, you could be forgiven for thinking you had landed on a film set.  This is the place to come to forget about everything and just soak up the sun and the views.

Marine-fishGandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

The relaxed village of Manzanillo is encompassed within the wildlife refuge.  Regulations on building and development mean this little town has held onto its roots in Afro-Caribbean culture and has a quaint non-hurried kind of atmosphere.

This often overlooked refuge stretches all the way down to the Panamanian border.  It has both rainforest and mangroves with hiking and birding opportunities a-plenty.  Alternatively, the marine area of the park has two coral reefs, perfect for diving and snorkelling.

Highlights on the Caribbean Coast:

  • Chilling – Experience the laid back lifestyle, culture and food of the Caribbean coast in Cahuita National Park, or any of the beaches in the area for that matter.
  • Snorkelling – Explore the coral reefs and discover another side to the Caribbean coastline.
  • Surfing – Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is where surfers used to congregate to surf the famous Salsa Brava, one of the biggest breaks in Costa Rica.
  • Culture – Immerse yourself in the unique fusion of colourful and laidback culture that this area has to offer – it is like no other, anywhere!
  • Indigenous Villages – It is possible to visit indigenous villages in the Bribri area for another insight into Costa Rica and her people.
  • Wildlife viewing – there’s plenty to see in both Cahuita and the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife refuge.

When to go to the Caribbean Coast:

Unlike the Pacific coast, there is no dry season as such on the Caribbean coast – it will rain here throughout the year.  The ‘drier’ months are February, March, September and October.  September and October are when the rest of Costa Rica experiences the heaviest rainfall.
Get more advice about when to travel to Costa Rica on our When to Visit page.


Where to Stay: